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May 04, 2006

Alternatives to Geldofism: lecture notes and resources

A few weeks back I gave a lecture at the Royal Society of Arts in London entitled "Solidarity economics & design". The lecture was provoked by the sick-making antics of Bob Geldof and the assumptions he and others made about 'development'. I argued that the word 'development' implies that we advanced people in the North have the right, or even obligation, to help backward people in the South to ‘catch up' with our own advanced condition. And that No, this idea doesn't make sense. The concept of development is further devalued, I said, by the impoverished but destructive mindset of economics. "The North's purse strings are clutched by people who define development narrowly in terms of growth, jobs and productivity - and ignore broader measures of sustainability and well-being". Anyway, I prepared rather thorough (for me) lecture notes and a list of resources - and then forgot to put them online. So here they are now.

Posted by Kristi at May 4, 2006 07:40 AM


He is right about one thing though, here in Ireland we are experiencing a property boom, and Geldof is a barometer in a way, because he comes out and says things everyone else is too chicken to. Like the fact, now, here in Ireland, the only 'interesting' conversion topic seems to be property related, and about how more and more expensive it is getting. Geldof spends most of his time in Britain now, but he related how in the 80s when he was in Ireland, he couldn't get a loan to do any of his business ideas - some of those ideas have proven sound, and been implemented by others. This is his main argument, that years ago, noone got a loan, or a chance to do anything - now, that seems to have dramatically swung too far in the other direction, with 100% morgages driving property prives through the ceiling.

Posted by: garethace at May 10, 2006 09:39 PM

So I guess, the point I am trying to make, is that Geldof is not *only* concerned about the development of third world countries. The man is sensitive about development in general - as it concerns all people in the third world or the first world. To understand Geldof, you really need to look at both sides of the coin. Geldof has had a very sucessful career himself as a business person in the first world. But naturally, what the papers publish is just what he says about Africa etc. He isn't as valuable to the newspapers, when he talks about the first world.

Posted by: garethace at May 18, 2006 10:08 PM

John, I agree with you. However it seems you have skipped a step. Before Geldof made assupmtions about 'development' he made assumptions about people - people in the south, as you have described. When our view of individuals who are different from us change, our views about how to help them change as well. You are on the right track in your thinking, but slow down a bit and dissect the symbolism behind your words. Let us start with man and his symbols, as did C. G. Jung.

Posted by: Ade Tugbiyele Sedita at May 19, 2006 09:59 PM

I just caught up with your "solidarity economics"
lecture through your blog.
Even though I'm with in your argument about the
importance of social solidarity, I think you
short-sell the notion of development. While you are
certainly right it's not a matter of saving people
from themselves (more like saving them from the
vestiges of colonialism), and there is much about
indigenous design ability we need to heed, there is
still a place for men and women of conscience (and I don't mean missionaries) to step in and assist. My
experience tells me that people in the non-Western
world desire the opportunities such assistance can

Arguing over whether a word, such as development,
sends a wrong message is temporizing over semantics.
Better, to the best of one's ability, to separate
sincere and effective small efforts from opportunistic
design initiatives and wade in.
For a look at what I'm getting at visit:
Best Wishes,

Posted by: david stairs at May 25, 2006 09:59 AM

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